Theatre Centre 31st October 2020.
In 1981, British
musical arranger, Louis Clark, had the idea of setting a string of favourite
classical themes to a persistent disco beat, for a recording by the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra. It was an idea
which struck a chord with thousands of people who didn’t know they liked
classical music, but knew a good tune when they heard it.
classical music lovers, the brilliance with which Clark arranged his snippets
provided an intriguing challenge to recognise the source of each melody.
published on vinyl by K-tel, and distributed by RCA records, “Hooked on
Classics” found an enthusiastic audience, and soon became a series which spread
beyond classics into other genres including musicals, opera, swing, baroque and
brass bands, and became a staple in thousands of record collections.
years later, Australian conductor, George Ellis, whose forte is popular
symphony orchestra concerts, has taken a selection of the most popular Louis
Clark arrangements, formed a 28 piece symphony orchestra, added a quartet of
fine singers, and a jovial MC and fashioned a highly entertaining touring
concert which found an appreciative audience for its single Canberra concert.
performance commenced, surprisingly, not with one of the classical medleys, but
with an exhilarating rendition of “Hooked
on Rodgers and Hammerstein”, which introduced the full company of musicians and
singers. The classical medleys followed
of course, where the imposition of the strictly maintained driving beat, which
characterises the arrangements, revealed unexpected nuances, with the smart
pace set by Ellis with his dynamic conducting adding an extra degree of
difficulty for the musicians and singers.
a whole evening of unrelenting rhythm could become tedious, Ellis sprinkled a
selection of musical bon-bons through the program. Ennio Morricone’s “The Good,
the Bad and the Ugly” and “The Magnificent Seven”, the stirring march from
Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, and “The Pink Panther Theme” featuring Loretta
Palmeiro’s luscious saxophone playing, showed off the brass section.
got their turn with a flashy arrangement of Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5, for
which Dimitri Calligeros was the dazzling violin soloist. Soprano Georgia
Melville, and contralto, Sarah Levine, performed a lovely version of the
popular duet from “Lakme”. Melville and
tenor, Nathan Bryon also featured in the popular “Brindisi” from La Traviata.
Bass, Kim Poole, was the fourth member of the excellent quartet, which became a
formidable choir for some of the medleys.
added to the enjoyment, by allowing the work of the soloists, both instrumental
and vocal, to be highlighted, as did radio personality, Scott Bevan, who had
obviously done his homework, injecting sly Canberra references into his genial
introductions, which provided a much needed moment for the hard-working
musicians to catch breath between the demanding items.
best to last, Ellis saved the famous original classical medley, which started
the “Hooked on Classics” craze, for the inevitable encore, leaving his clearly
delighted audience clamouring for a return visit of this superbly performed
concert of classical and popular music.
This review first published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au